Cabin Fever Part i (Leaving China)
When you land in Vancouver, one of the first things you notice as you travel through the corridors to baggage claim is a massive totem pole, a water fall, wooden structure that replicates a warm cabin feel. The airport itself is inviting as it has a warm, and I have walked this path so many times. However, on this particular arrival, I was feeling less than welcome and quite psychotic. I hadn't eaten in three days and I found my tongue tripping over basic English sentences when conversing. I had trouble asking for direction and looking basic airport security in the eye. I was nervous to be home, nervous that I wasn't quite safe to relax. I had just flown 13 hours from Shanghai, where I lived an incredibly stressful last week. I was still getting over a pain in my throat that I had never experienced. Sleepless nights and a stale dry taste in my mouth. I'd never felt so alone. Up until these past few days things seemed like a dream. Discovering ancient temples, taking part in Chinese traditional ceremonies, hiking mountains to experience a historic pilgrimages, but it all came to an end on one heavily polluted day in January.
You may have heard there is a slight political dilemma I'll say between a few countries including China. I did not realize the repercussions I personally would have to face in the wake of this conflict. Of course, I went all out for a VPN in China, but I was still quite limited to detrimental information. I mainly used my VPN to catch up on the second season of 'This Is Us' and to create insta-stories of the wild seafood I was consuming. It wasn't until I landed in Canada did I hear about the high volume of Canadians being detained, arrested, sent off planes and even sentenced to death. I am aware that these are more extreme cases that really wouldn't affect a young backpacker/teacher like me, but I promise you, vulnerably finds its ways in, and it plays tricks on you. There is nothing like the feeling that you are being watched like a meal by an entire country. My panic of waking up and going to work in the morning set in and it grew over time.
Let me take a step back for a moment and reevaluate. Everything leading up to this moment was absolutely brilliant. Discovering Shanghai, alone, was truly what I needed for myself. To truly break out of a comfort zone I didn't realize I was trapped in. I was challenged in remarkable ways. I picked up Mandarin fairly quickly and was fast to bargain on the streets for dresses and groceries. I'm a different person now. I loved discovering hidden alley ways and fluorescent pink cafes, independent restaurant stands and the shopping..
4 days before my flight home.
I arrived at what I believed was a typical day at school. I finished class early, I meant to have a meeting with my coordinator to discuss why I was feeling so uneasy and uncomfortable at my sponsor home. Now, I truly struggled with the culture shock of my hindered western ways, but the expression I received when I was blindsided with the news that I was no longer invited to live in my sponsor home was met with a giggle, a weak smile and eyes that looked just past me to the right. Robotic, I would say. It made me uncomfortable and sick to my stomach.
"They want you out, they feel nervous of a foreigner around."
What was I supposed to do? This was all news to me. I was angry. I expressed that. Which of course, like I said, is wrong.
So I had an hour to get home, pack my things - luckily I've gotten used to a quick suitcase pack and living fruitfully out of 1 backpack - and make my way back to the school. I felt quit numb, and only trusted myself. Upon arriving at the school I was given an address. The address on my weak signal translated to "Disney water park Shanghai Inn"... it was not as fun and exciting as it sounded.
The direction I received was nothing short of a point of a finger in the direction of a train station outside the school lobby. Once on the train I started travelling towards in-land China and I arrived in what could only be described as a witness protection hotel, of course it wasn't that extreme. I got lost a few times. I trekked down muddled roads with hanging pig flesh and stray cats hissing at my ankles. There was a huge old abandoned shopping mall with a green grey stain marking its way across the entrance sign. The pollution was so bad it felt as though a thick cloud of mist had actually been the cause of the towns evacuation. I decided for myself I wouldn't cry until I was in bed. I decided that I was better than to beg for help. Later that night I set out to find my only muse and something I'd gone without for months, wine. I was directed to a run down what I could probably describe as a 2 star convenient store/outhouse/vape lounge. I let myself in, said hello to the 10 year old boy smoking a heavy cigarette playing a game on his phone. I grabbed a bottle of mislabelled french red wine and a cork opener and said
I put a 100 RMB bill on the table and left. The air was dense with pollution and the smell of shit. As I walked back to the hotel, where I later got completely wasted while listening to the only album I had downloaded on my phone 'Go Further In Lightness'. I began to laugh...I can't believe I'm here.
End of part i.